Inside My Brain

Here’s a glimpse inside my brain.

My nails are very long. Which is pretty. But makes it harder to type.

I like this nail polish color. But the ends are starting to wear off. I need to trim my nails. What color should I paint them next?

Church is tomorrow. I’d like to wear a dress. That means I need to shave my legs. When am I going to do that?

I want to make and decorate some cookies. So I could bake the cookies on this day and decorate them the next day…is there a day that would work for that?

I want to go shopping.

I ought to put some makeup on.

I’m SO GLAD Caleb finally pooped after being constipated recently.

Gosh darn it I wish that child would potty train.

Ethan will probably be one of those that potty trains overnight.

After Ethan is potty trained I can get pregnant again. Okay, hubby and I can talk about getting pregnant again. That’s the deal.

After that do I want to have another baby or will that be the right time to start talking about adopting?

God, I’m glad I have been blessed with being able to get pregnant easily, but why do other women who would be such amazing mommies have a hard time? It’s not fair. My heart hurts for them.

On the other hand I know a lot of women who have had babies recently or are about to have babies and it is NOT helping the baby fever!

I need to hold a baby.

I also need to find a preschool for Caleb.

Caleb is turning four this December.

Waaaaaaaah!

Hmmm, my lips feel very soft today.

Maybe today would be a good day for red lipstick.

I ought to get off the couch and put some makeup on so I can go grocery shopping later.

Okay so I don’t NEED makeup on to go grocery shopping but I like wearing it.

And I’m good at doing it on other people.

Now I really want to do makeup on someone. Anyone want me to do their makeup?

But first I need to go grocery shopping.

Which requires getting off the couch.

Shoot.

Okay bye! :-)

All of that took place in about oh…two seconds? 

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One Flesh

A couple months ago I was having a conversation with a friend who is seriously dating someone. She asked me why I thought couples seemed to fight more after they’re engaged or newly married. The question has stuck with me. I’ve given it some thought. My husband and I definitely had more than our fair share of arguments during our engagement and the first year of our marriage. A lot of couples report this phenomenon. Why?

I think it’s because before the ring goes on the finger, we’re still two totally independent people. In the case of my circle of acquaintance, we’re not yet living together. We haven’t joined our finances. We’re spending lots of time together but not really doing life in the day to day.

But when the commitment is made, we start doing those things. And we realize something. The other person’s actions now directly affect me. Their finances. Their daily routines. The way they cook. Whether or not they leave their dirty laundry on the floor. Things that were not a big deal while we were dating become a big deal because we’re going to be joining lives and operating as one unit. We’re not separate any more in so many ways. But becoming not-so-independent goes against our modern, progressive society grain.

So…we clash.

And the little things become big things as we dig under the surface even more. Our family cultures also have a big influence on us. My husband and I came from very different family cultures. It caused a lot of conflict over how we did things like vacations and holidays. We were forming our own little family culture and it definitely had growing pains. And there were deeply rooted past hurts and issues that affected how we interacted as we grew closer and became even more intimate and vulnerable with each other.

It was interesting to look back and reflect on those early days of our relationship. We’ve come a long way but we still have our conflicts. We’re unique individuals, after all. We have our different preferences and different ways of doing things. But we’re learning more every day how to operate as one flesh. A very wise redheaded Southern gal (you know who you are!) said something to us that really thrust us forward into better teamwork: “You are one flesh, fifty percent of each other. Operating without her is like operating without half of your brain.”

Wow.

That really kicked us in the pants. We needed to stop bickering so much about the “right” and “wrong” way to do things and start trusting each other more. So what if one of us does something differently than the other? It gets done. And if one of us has been doing a task that we struggle with, but the other person is better at it, we need to stop being so darn prideful and let it go to the person who has the skills to do it well. And then, we need to not hover and be controlling and critical.

It revolutionized our marriage. We used to have knock-down-drag-out fights about money every month, but now, disagreements about money are rare. That has been the biggest impact. And we have a little more grace in the day to day differences. Yeah, I still get mad when he gives the kids ice cream before dinner. Yes, it still drives him nuts when I don’t clean the pots and pans before I sit down to eat what I just cooked. We don’t always handle conflict with as much dignity as we should. We’re workin’ on it. But at the end of a day, we’re a team. He’s my teammate. We’re in this together. I’m here for him, he’s here for me. We’re half of each other.

We’re one flesh.

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On the Market

Our house has been on the market for over a week now. We’ve had several showings and one potential offer we’re working on, doing the whole counter-offer thing an all. We made a lot of changes to our house to get it ready – we had the outside painted, the carpet replaced, and finished the second bathroom. It’s been crazy!!! Having to get out of the house with two little kids for showings on short notice is not the easiest thing in the world but we’ve made it work and kept the house in order so prepping it for showings is pretty easy. The question I get asked most often is how do I keep the house clean during this time, especially with kids? I thought I’d expound on that today. :-)

- Purge. Don’t hold on to things for no reason. Get rid of the clutter and the crap. Clear out those nooks and crannies so you have space to put away the things you use regularly. Cut down on the knick-knacks and pictures and home accessories. Keep it simple.

- Put things away after you use them. This was our biggest adjustment. But after just a week we’re used to it. Hang up your jacket when you walk in the door. Put the mail away after you open it. Stash your products in drawers or baskets in the bathroom after your shower. Unload the dishwasher as soon as it’s done running so you don’t get dirty dishes piling up on the counter. A little bit of effort every day adds up to a lot in the long run.

- Get and stay caught up on laundry. I spent a weekend doing nothing but laundry. Every towel, bed sheet, and item of clothing in our house was washed. And I folded it all and put it away. Now I do small loads a few times a week as I need to, and put them away immediately.

- Store things you’re not going to need. We packed up our winter clothes and my maternity wardrobe (which I won’t need for a while) in Space Bags to free up space in our closet. We packed up all the books and movies we don’t regularly use in bins so we could get rid of the big ugly black bookshelf in our family room. .

- Put away some toys. We took down our kids’ train table and put it in the basement along with about half their toys. What’s left fits in the toy box in our family room and they’re perfectly happy with the situation. All it takes is a couple of minutes to pick up the toys and toss them in the toy box, put on the lid, and the family room is clean. One of the best decisions we made.

- Clean a little bit every day. Sweep the kitchen floor. Dust (get thee a Swiffer duster, I love that thing!). Keep a towel in the bathroom to wipe down the sink and counter quickly after use. Run the vacuum in one room when you have a few minutes. Just little things. You don’t have to deep-clean the house every day.

Doing these things has been great for our family. For years I have struggled with keeping the house clean but forming these new habits out of necessity has been amazing. We are definitely going to be carrying this over to our next home! And we will be simplifying as well. When you have less stuff, you have less stuff to keep clean. Simple as that.

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Disappointment and Hope

In our crazy life it seems like things only go one of two ways. Either things stay the same for a long, long time and God uses that time to teach us contentment and patience, or things change all of a sudden and it moves really fast and God uses THAT time to teach us to trust Him to have it all figured out even when we have no clue how it’s going to end up.

Last fall my hubby got a new job that came with a long commute. We immediately began making plans to sell our house and move closer to his new job, but the timing was just off. It didn’t work out. So we talked and prayed and consulted with a few people older and wiser than us, and decided to stay put for a while longer.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago. BAM. Things changed. I won’t go into detail but it was the kind of changes needed. So now we’re preparing our house to put on the market at breakneck speed and looking for homes in the area we want to live in.

We did find a house we fell in love with. It was adorable. Perfect location. Charming. Great backyard. Basement. Pantry. Right price range. Everything. We couldn’t put in an offer until we got our house on the market because we would need to do a contingency, meaning our purchasing that house depends on selling our current house. It had been on the market for a long time so we were hopeful we could get our house on the market and make an offer and that adorable house would be ours.

Yesterday, just days from our house being ready to officially list, the adorable house went under contract.

All along we’ve prayed “God, if that house is from You, open the doors. If it’s not, close ‘em.” Well, the doors closed. And it’s okay. We’re profoundly disappointed, as that house would have met all our needs and a considerable amount of our wants, but we are choosing to move forward in hope. There is a house out there for us. God knows where it is. It may not have come up for sale yet, as there are very few homes on the market in that area right now. So once in a while anxiety creeps in that we won’t be able to find a house soon enough. But then we have to take a deep breath and remind ourselves – we have entrusted this process to God, and He knows how it’s going to go.

So now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go do more cleaning and staging and making my house look pretty so it will sell. :-)

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What Makes Me Love Cleaning

I am no great housekeeper. My mother will attest to that. My husband will attest to that. June Cleaver I am not. I know how to clean, I just hate doing it.

But I discovered something that stirs in my heart a love of cleaning I did not think was possible!

Homemade cleaners!

See, one of the reasons I have always hated cleaning is the smell of traditional chemical cleaning products. Can’t stand it. Even before I was aware that a lot of the ingredients in those products are not necessarily good for you, I didn’t like them because of the fumes. Bleach gives me a headache. Most cleaners make me cough. And if I’m not wearing gloves when I clean I become obsessed with getting the cleaner off my hands and wash them until they’re dry and chapped.

When we got our first big order of doTerra essential oils, it came with this booklet.

People. It has recipes for everything you could possibly want to use essential oils for.

I started with this scrub. I had all the ingredients I needed in the house and my glass stove top was pretty grungy.

1 cup baking soda

1/4 cup liquid soap such as Dr. Bronner’s (the peppermint scented version is great for cleaning!)

1 Tbsp white vinegar

10 drops lemon or rosemary essential oil

It might seem like you need more liquid at first, but keep mixing. It will all combine and get really fluffy. Store it in an airtight container. If after storing for a while it seems dried out, add a drizzle of water and stir. It will fluff right back up!

I use it on anything I can! The glass stove top – which gets so shiny I can see my reflection in it – the bathtub, kitchen counters, stainless steel sinks, whatever you can use a scrub on. It truly works better than any scrubbing product I’ve ever gotten in the store. It smells divine. It wipes or rinses off beautifully. I do wear rubber gloves while using it, just because my hands don’t need that much exfoliation. :-)

So if you’re toying with the idea of giving homemade cleaning products a try, this scrubbing paste is a good one to start with!

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The Best Hummus EVER

I love hummus. It is my favorite snack. Give me some carrots and hummus and I’m a happy girl. Husband has struggled with most kinds of hummus flaring up his acid reflux, but this one doesn’t! And Baby Ethan loves it too. I gave him a taste one day of the roasted red pepper version and he proceeded to go crazy for it and eat most of what was on my plate.

Caleb won’t touch it. Which is par for the course with Mister Pickypants.

I got this recipe from my darling friend Maryellen. Who went and moved to Florida on me. And I miss her terribly. But her hummus lives on! :-)

Here ya go:

3 cans garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed (I prefer the no salt added variety)

4 cloves garlic

1/3 cup tahini (sesame seed paste – you can usually find it near the peanut butter in stores)

1/2 cup lemon juice

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

Optional: A sprinkle of paprika and/or cumin

Olive oil

That’s it!

Place the garbanzo beans in the food processor and pulse a few times to break them up. I know some recipes call for the blender but trust me, the food ‘pro is so much easier. Pulse until they’re broken down a bit. Start blending and slowly add the tahini and lemon juice. And then let ‘er rip. Add the garlic and salt at intervals. I like my hummus pretty creamy so I let it spin for several minutes. Add small amounts of water or reserved juice from the canned beans as needed. Remove to storage container of choice and add a drizzle of olive oil on top.

And voila!

This recipe makes a pretty large amount. It’s perfect for parties alongside a veggie tray or pita chips, and will keep in the refrigerator for…eh…about a week. Though it never lasts that long in our house. ;-)

Variation: Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil (trust me on this, makes cleanup easier!). Lay three red bell peppers on their sides on the baking sheet and place under a hot broiler, close to the heat but not too close. Keep an eye on the peppers, and when the skin on the side facing the boiler is well blackened, turn the peppers with tongs and keep roasting. Keep going until the peppers are thoroughly blackened on all sides. Remove from the oven and place peppers in a glass bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let them sit for a while to cool AND to steam so the skin peels off easily. Once the peppers are cool enough to handle, peel off the skin and clean out the core and seeds. Add the peppers to the food processor while making the hummus.

Hummus ‘n Veggie Sandwich

I’m an unapologetic carnivore, but I also enjoy a lot of vegetarian/vegan meals. I made this for lunch with my most recent batch of hummus and some of my homemade bread. Delicious and satisfying!

Spread a good amount of hummus on both slices of bread. Add lettuce, sliced tomatoes, peppers, whatever veggies fit your fancy!

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Why I Don’t Miss Cable.

I had to take Ethan to the ER last night for a sudden, violent attack of croup. While he dozed on my chest as I held a cool-mist treatment near his face, I flipped through the channels on the television hanging from the ceiling in our room.

And oh my goodness. I do not miss having cable.

When we made the decision a couple of years ago to discontinue our satellite service, I was anxious. How was I going to live without a hundred some-odd channels to choose from??? Without a DVR??? OMG I was going to waste away from boredome!!!

Obviously I’m still here so there was no wasting away.

We have an antenna that gets the networks in high-def, streaming Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Prime (which we get at a deep discount because of Husband’s student status). We pay half what we would for the cheapest cable or satellite package available. And we are content.

In the past few years, cable has evolved dramatically. There is so much TRASH. Everyone and their mother has a “reality” show and they’re just awful. First of all, there is no reality in reality television. It is all produced and yes, even scripted to give a certain impression or get a certain outcome. And don’t even get me started on the behavior displayed on these shows. I wanted to throw a party when “Jersey Shore” finally got cancelled.

Last night I happened upon TLC in the channel lineup at the hospital and it made me a little sick. The channel whose name stands for “The Learning Channel” has become “The Trashy Reality Show Channel”. My favorite show in the world, “What Not to Wear”, was the last thing left worth watching on TLC, and its run is ending this summer. Sad. But this is the evolution of so many cable channels. A&E, The History Channel, Discovery…all of them have strayed from their roots and have more reality programming than anything else. I used to love these channels but even when we still had them, I watched them less and less because there was nothing of substance on them. It was just watching has-been celebrities and wannabe celebrities do…what? Eat lunch? Get more plastic surgery? Go to the beach? Guzzle wine and scream profanities and throw tables at each other?

It’s just plain not life-giving. And we made a decision to focus on letting life-giving things into our home. I may sound judgmental to some ears but y’know what, I don’t care. There is much more peace in our home since we kicked the satellite. My husband and I spend more time together since we watch less television. I get more done around the house during the day. I *gasp!* have time to read books occasionally! The online services we utilize more than adequately meet our desires when it comes to the handful of shows we do watch, and when it comes to our children, we have more control over what they watch AND we don’t have to deal with the ridiculous onslaught of advertising on the children’s channels.

So I don’t miss cable. I never will. I have no desire to ever have it again. There are so many more good things in life that don’t come with a massive monthly bill. :-)

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Being Mommy: 3 years in…

I like to do a post around Mother’s Day about being…well, being a mom. I spend this time of year reflecting on what motherhood has taught me as my children grow and change.

This year I went from being a mom of one, to a mom of two. And it was HARD. Well, okay, not all of it was hard. Some of it was easier than expected. Ethan was an easy baby in areas Caleb was not. And since we’d done the newborn thing before, we were much more relaxed about the whole thing.

The hard part was Caleb getting adjusted to the world not revolving around him any more. There were times he would just stand in front of me while I was nursing the baby, holding his Blanky, wailing at the top of his lungs, because he suddenly decided he needed to sit on my lap RIGHT NOW. And his two-year-old molars started coming in so he cried all the time. It wore my nerves down to nothing. Add in the sleep deprivation, breasts whose milk production would just not stabilize, and post-partum depression, and I was a mess. Once I got on antidepressants life got considerably better, though. And Ethan did eventually start sleeping through the night. Caleb began to see his little brother as a person, not just this weird creature who had taken over our lives, and interact with him.

So how has motherhood changed me this year?

I have become a lot less judgmental. Come on, girls, you know you do it too. It’s so hard not to. I believe it’s born out of our desire to feel like a good mom. And the easiest way to feel good about yourself is to be critical of others. My two boys are such different little individuals. I really truly realized I cannot take credit for a lot of things my children are. God made them certain ways, and my job is to learn how God programmed them and parent them accordingly. Not everything works with every child. So that mom you see whose child is throwing a fit in the middle of the grocery store and she looks like she’s about to completely lose it? Be careful before looking down your nose at her. You don’t know what kind of day she’s had. You don’t know if she’s tried every method known to man and still can’t get through a public outing without her child having a first-class meltdown. Because there are some kids who are just like that, and the best their mommies can do is just survive the difficult years. And they need sympathy, not dirty haughty looks.

I have learned to roll with the punches. Life rarely goes as planned with little kids. They’re unpredictable little creatures. And life is a lot happier when you roll with it. For example, our Mother’s Day in no way went as planned. Caleb had a horrible allergy attack and could not stop coughing, poor thing. So instead of going to church as a family, Husband stayed home with the boys and I went by myself. Instead of pouting about it I decided to revel in the fact that I got to have a little time to myself. It was wonderful. We were all supposed to go to my grandparents’ house in the afternoon but we didn’t want to risk having Caleb around my niece just in case he did have a virus, so just Ethan and I went. We missed having Daddy and Caleb there, but I enjoyed the long, relatively quiet drive with Ethan. And Ethan enjoyed having all the attention! :-) Caleb was doing much better after his afternoon nap, so we decided to hit up Souper Salad for dinner and my in-laws were down in town so they met us there. So not the day we expected, but y’know what, it turned out way better than if I had spent it sulking over how it was “ruined”. I’ve really been trying to apply that philosophy to life in general. It just eliminates so much stress!

I have learned that a calm, quiet tone often goes a lot further than yelling. Oh, I still yell sometimes. It’s a hard habit to break. Am I right?

I have learned how critical it is to stay connected with my husband. Neither of us can stand feeling disconnected. It is so important to carve out time to connect with your spouse. And it’s good for your kids, too, to see their parents making each other a priority. Kids may act grossed out when you smooch in front of them, but deep down inside it gives them a sense of security. So don’t be afraid to be schmoopy and have date nights. They may pitch a fit when you leave but the universe doesn’t revolve around them and they’re going to have to learn that lesson sooner or later. I love my children but I love their Daddy too and I refuse to put my relationship with the man I married on the back burner.

I have learned to have way more grace for myself. I am not a perfect person, and therefore I am not ever going to be a perfect mother. I am going to make mistakes. I am going to look back when my kids are grown and see things I could have done differently. That’s reality. So when I mess up, instead of spiraling down into the depths of despair and thinking I’m going to screw my kids up for life, I pick myself up, dust myself off, apologize to my kids if I need to, and move on. Mommy messes up sometimes too, and Mommy has to say sorry just the same as they do.

Those are probably the biggest points of the past year. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have an adorable three year old who wants some snuggles. :-)

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Beef ‘n Veggie Spaghetti

This was my Facebook status this afternoon:

“Okay. I have ground beef, some frozen broccoli and green beans, onions, quinoa, a box of spelt spaghetti, a couple of tomatoes (but no canned tomatoes), some zucchini that may or may not have gone bad (I don’t want to look!) garlic and various seasonings. I need to make dinner from all this. Go.”

My mom and one of my friends threw out some great ideas, and THIS is what I ended up with:

It was pretty tasty! So I thought I’d share the recipe. Here ya go:

1 package spaghetti

1 lb. ground beef

Salt ‘n pepper

Basil

Parsley

Red pepper flakes

3 or 4 cloves of garlic, minced

Olive oil

1 onion, diced

1 zucchini, cut into small cubes

1/2 a red bell pepper, diced

2 tomatoes, diced

3/4 to 1 cup beef broth

Get a large pot of water heating for the spaghetti.

In a large skillet, heat some olive oil and brown the ground beef, seasoning with salt ‘n pepper, basil, parsley, and red pepper flakes. Add the minced garlic when the beef is almost done. When the beef is cooked through, remove it from the skillet and set it aside. Drain any excess fat from the skillet, add a little olive oil if need be. This depends on how lean your beef is.

Add the onions to the skillet and saute until softened. Add the zucchini, bell pepper, and tomato. Cook for a minute or two. Add about 1/2 a cup of the beef broth to de-glaze the skillet. Let it come to a boil, reduce the heat a tad, and let it simmer. Add more seasonings if desired. Add the beef back in. Add additional splashes of broth as the mixture simmers and thickens.

The water should be boiling by now. Add the spaghetti and cook according to package directions. Drain spaghetti and place in a large mixing bowl. Dump the beef and veggie mixture over it and mix together immediately.

Serve topped with Parmesan or other Italian cheeses.

You could do this with many combinations – ground turkey or chicken, Italian sausage (which is what my mom does), and all kinds of veggies. I’d love to add mushrooms! Yum!

 

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The things you learn…

“Y’know,” I said to Husband last night, “if you’d be willing to swing by the store on your way home from work tomorrow and get some Canadian bacon and some pizza sauce, I could make a pizza with that pineapple I’ve had sitting in the kitchen for two weeks. It’s perfectly ripe.”

Husband’s head snapped around to look at me. There was a goofy grin on his face and his eyes twinkled. “Ooooooo! You know that’s my favorite pizza!”

I blanked. “Uh…it is?”

“Yeah!”

“Huh. I guess I never figured that out because…”

“…because I just kind of love pizza in general, huh?”

And we both laughed.

Six years married and I couldn’t have told you Canadian bacon and pineapple was his favorite pizza. I guess you never stop learning about your spouse! :-)

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